Ridiculous: EU Sanctions Entangle Yandex Founder Arkady Volozh in a Web of Contradictions!

Russian tech billionaire Arkady Volozh
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In a ridiculous situation that borders on the absurd, Arkady Volozh, 60, the Russian tech mogul and founder of Yandex—often dubbed as Russia’s Google—finds himself ensnared by EU sanctions despite his apparent defection from Putin’s Russia. This scenario raises provocative questions about the logic and effectiveness of the EU’s sanctions regime against Russian oligarchs and businessmen.

Arkady Volozh (website), having distanced himself from Vladimir Putin‘s regime, publicly condemned the invasion of Ukraine and even initiated steps to divest his interests in the Russian IT sector, remains paradoxically penalized by the EU. His predicament epitomizes the bizarre reality of being branded a renegade in Russia—facing potential dire consequences—and simultaneously being treated as a Kremlin ally in the EU, barred from entry and business dealings within the bloc.

The irony of the situation hasn’t escaped notice among Russia experts and academics, who argue that penalizing Russians like Volozh, who have taken a stand against Putin, could backfire. This approach might deter others from breaking ranks with the Kremlin, inadvertently bolstering Putin’s grip on power. This, in essence, undermines the very goal the EU sanctions aim to achieve.

Under Volozh’s stewardship, Yandex emerged as a pivotal force in Russia’s IT landscape, admittedly playing a role in disseminating state propaganda. However, the extent of Volozh’s control over these actions, especially in the years leading up to the invasion of Ukraine, remains a subject of debate. Following the annexation of Crimea, Volozh relocated to Israel and has since been vocal in his opposition to Putin’s military aggressions, going as far as aiding Russian IT specialists in fleeing the country—a move that earned him the label of “traitor” from Putin’s spokesperson.

Forbes estimates Volozh’s net worth to be around $1.2 billion.

The EU’s decision to continue sanctioning Volozh raises eyebrows, especially as the UK and USA have chosen not to. The criteria for his inclusion on the sanctions list—being a significant revenue source for Russia and purportedly supporting the aggression against Ukraine—seem increasingly flimsy against his recent actions and pronouncements.

The process and rationale behind the EU’s sanctions list, shrouded in opacity, prompts a call for a reevaluation. If the objective is indeed to pressure those aligned with Putin, then ensnaring individuals like Volozh, who are actively disassociating from the regime and condemning its actions, seems counterproductive at best.

Volozh’s potential avenues for relief—a successful appeal to the European Court of Justice or a proactive removal by the EU Council—highlight the complex interplay of politics, justice, and individual agency. Yet, the caveat remains: his business endeavors, though now aimed at divesting from Russian interests, could still technically tether him to the sanctions list if deemed a significant source of income for Russia.

As Volozh navigates the treacherous waters of divesting his Russian assets—a process contingent on Kremlin approval—the absurdity of his situation underscores a broader critique of the EU’s sanctions policy. It raises a provocative question: Are the EU’s sanctions against Russia, by ensnaring individuals like Volozh, veering into the realm of the absurd, thus diluting their intended impact and moral authority? This conundrum serves as a clarion call for EU regulators and law enforcement to refine their approach, ensuring that sanctions do not inadvertently punish those who stand against Putin’s war machine but rather sharpen their focus on the true enablers of the Kremlin’s aggression.


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